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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Story Unbound, 15 Oct 2012
Hands down, the most extraordinary collection of fiction in any genre that I can remember reading in years. I've been avoiding reviewing it for almost a fortnight, because it knocked me sideways, and it's been difficult to draw my thoughts about it together.

First off, what is the Faction Paradox? Well... I'm not going to tell you. I didn't know when I started reading the book, and the mystery enhanced the stories so much that I pity any reader who already knows. As the book's final page tells us: "They're here. They're not here. Get used to it."

What's clear from this collection is that Faction stories are unbound. A Faction Paradox story isn't restricted to a set of rules or a stylebook. Quite the opposite. This book is an absolute explosion of ideas, and an homage to the exhilarating possibilities of speculative fiction. The Faction Paradox 'brand' clearly doesn't limit the potential of stories - it seems instead to enable them, and the result is a book crammed with sometimes dizzying flights of fantasy.

I can't go through this book story by story, so some highlights to be going on with. The opening tale, Matt Kimpton's 'The Storyteller', caught me completely off guard with its presentation of a Scandinavian myth told in the oral tradition. The tale is of a young bard determined to live a legend in line with those he regales others with, and his hunt to do so changes his own story in strange and temporal ways. It's densely, lovingly written, and while utterly unexpected also introduces the scope of the book in a brilliant and curiously unsettling way. Compare this with Blair Bidmead's 'Now Or Thereabouts', on the face of it an amusing parody of The Apprentice with surprisingly affecting undertones. It's difficult to imagine how two such opposing stylistic works could exist together in the same book elsewhere, but here they actually serve to complement one another and enhance the overall impact of the volume. Later, Dave Hoskin offers 'Tonton Macoute', a story of an appetite for ingesting stories that drips with grotesque menace, and Philip Purser-Hallard closes with the remarkable 'A Hundred Words From The Civil War'. In this final piece, the author draws strands from across the book together in a city at the end of time, where all human (and human-ish) souls are resurrected, then uses an extensive series of drabbles to document the beginning, middle, and end of a complex civil war with ambition and grace.

My personal highlights only. Consider this book (beautifully designed, if you choose the hardback) an adventure waiting to happen to happen to you, a genuinely exciting mystery tour through Romance and Story. It excited me about the potential dynamism of storytelling all over again, and sets my expectations of what I want from anthologies almost impossibly high.
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A Romance in Twelve Parts (Faction Paradox)
A Romance in Twelve Parts (Faction Paradox) by Stuart Douglas (Hardcover - 31 May 2011)
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